Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Yo te acompaño, porque sé que el camino es duro"

Buenas tardes, querida familia.

It must come as quite a surprise to you that I'm actually writing on Monday for once. It's the first time in a while that there haven't been other happenings that have kept us from writing on our normal P-Day. But here I am! I haven't heard from many of you, but I'm sure it's just for the sudden change from the norm. But regardless, I have to write now, so I'll read the rest next week I suppose. In response to your question, Mom, I always read everything I have in my inbox right there, which often takes away time from writing, yes, but I enjoy it. I could print whatever and read it later, but it's a hastle and costly, so I don't do it. So as far as reading old letters goes, I've got em all saved in my email account so I can read them on P-Day when I want to.

Glad to hear that Dad's doing so much better now. I was pretty bummed to hear about the injury but happy to know he's up and running again, and proud of Jennifer for being such a boss and running the 15k! Way to go! Speaking of sports, how're the olympics? I think of all the television programs I've missed in the past 10 months, the olympics is the hardest one for me to miss. I love it. But every now and then it's playing in stores and stuff so I can catch a few gymnastic routines. Thank you for sending the thermals! Those will definitely help a ton during the day. It's been dang cold here this past week, and I sleep in lots of clothes, with my hoody over my head to keep my ears warm and my blankets over my head to keep my face warm. I'm pretty pumped for spring to start soon.

Dad, I think I can help you out. Looks like the street is called Arturo Prat, and the apartment is in the corner of arturo prat with Matta. It's part of a city square that's right next to the plaza. Hope that helps.

My companion is pretty awesome. I was going to tell you a little more about him last week. Here goes. He's from a city named Bucaramanga, Colombia and is 22 years old. He does in fact speak very diferently. Like a mix between Spanish and Jamaican, with very rounded vowels. His parents were converts, and he was baptised along with them when he was around 8 years old. He's got another brother who's two years younger who's also on a mission in Antofagasta, Chile. They left at the same time. Elder Aparicio, after completing high school, served in the Colombian army for two years. He's got 15 months in the mission and was the last missionary in Carahue before I got there! Neat! We get along super well, and I'm having a blast with him. It's funny, because he reminds me a TON of Austin Chardac. Like, he's seriously Austin's Latin double, only with less musical talent. What I'm learning most from Elder Aparicio is how to truly focus on the needs of the people teach. Elder Aparicio is a missionary that really gets the big picture. He's not here (primarily) for duty, or for glory, or for self-gain, or any thing else. He's here because he's humble, and has a true testimony of the redeeming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He knows that baptising is important, but not the most important. What counts is someone who gains a personal testimony of the Savior, who repents of their sins and has a change of heart. He's taught me a lot of things that I think I always knew in theory, but not in practice, and in only these past two weeks, I've learned how to have more faith in the power of God, to not doubt the sheer reality of His work and His glory, and especially not to doubt in the goodness of people, and their God-given ability to change. He's taught me how to teach with greater power and authority, as the representatives of Jesus Christ that we are, having been called of God to this ministry. And it's been an absolute blast these weeks working together with him to help the Zone of Coronel gain the same vision of this great work and to give themselves 100 percent to the Lord.

This week, my goal is to try and be more charitable. Yesterday in church, there was a talk that really struck home with me. In our branch, there's a wonderful man named Omar who (I don't know why), doesn't have legs, so he gets around in a wheel chair. Well the man giving the talk spoke about how he was at the church the other day, just getting out of an interview, and so was Omar. He looked at him with a certain sense of compasion, knowing how tough and dangerous the road is where Omar lives, and how he could help. But soon he remembered how busy he was that evening, how he needed to go home and make food, and other chores, and rationalized that Omar is a strong man and independent, he can take care of himself. Then another man named Javier, a recent convert with a big heart, who also knew how dangerous and tough the road is where Omar lives, offered to accompany him home. The man who gave the talk was moved by the example of Javier, who selflessly looked upon his brother in the faith and said, "Yo te acompaño, porque sé que el camino es duro." Or in other words, "I'll go with you, because I know the road is hard." Upon hearing these words, I instantly thought about the example of our Savior, who lived a life of service, who suffered and died to make our burden lighter. He really knows, and He understands. And how often He says those very words, "I'll go with you, because I know the road is hard." I am eternally grateful for the example of the Son of God, who showed us the meaning of charity and compassion. I want to be more like that, and without hesitance or justification repeat those very words to as many as are in need of them, "Yo te acompaño, porque sé que el camino es duro." My invitation to all these week is that we can search for opportunities to offer service to someone in need. Every small act of kindness goes a long way.

I love you all very much, and am grateful for your example to me. Till next time, keeping it real in Lota,

Elder Wilcox

At the top of a giant hill that we climb at least once every day (we live in the valley between the hills.)
With me
Some nice socks I bought in the street market. Now I just gotta find a washion machine.
Another pair of very high quality socks.
Another one on top of the world.
With Silvia, her daughter Maria, and granddaughter Fernanda. A wonderful family that always takes good care of us.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lota - Mapudungun, Louta, Little Farmhouse

Buenos Martes!
First things first, answers!
Dad, Lota is actually a branch that is part of the District of Coronel. The Branches of Coronel are: Arauco, Lota, Coronel, and Camilo. However, for mission purposes, Lagunillas is also included in the mission boundaries of the Zone of Coronel (my zone), even though that ward is technically part of the San Pedro Stake. So in total, our Zone is comprised of the following mission sectors: Arauco, Lota Bajo (us), Lota Medio (same house as us), Lota Alto, Coronel (district center), Camilo 1, Camilo 2, Lagunillas 1, and Lagunillas 2 (although for one more week there will only be one sector in Lagunillas with the trio, until my replacement arrives), for a grand total of 9 sectors, being one of the biggest zones of the mission. We do in fact have our own beautiful chapel, and they're currently working on building a little football court next to it. Between 100-120 members attend here regularly, right about where Lagunillas was at. Lota's fun because it's a town, just like Carahue, only much bigger (about 49 thousand inhabitants, so you can get an idea), but still with that small-town feel. Lota has a ton of history. It apparently used to be the cultural center of all Chile, due to its large mining industry. However, when coal prices fell, the economic boom here crashed and Lota was left in the shadows with just the history of its glory years that still twinkle between these hills. (Yes, Lota has got plenty of hills, so I'm getting a nice old fashioned work out again after a nice break with the bicycles in modern Lagunillas).

My adress is Avenida Pratt, No. 1, Something something, I don't remember. But we live in an apartment complex at the end of that street.
My companion is from Bucaramanga, Colombia, and has about 15 months in the mission. He is a fantastic missionary and in only one week I've already learned a ton from him.

Well, I had planned to write a lot more about him, my experiences this week, etc., but we're actually writing late, it being tuesday, because yesterday we had to spend the whole day in Concepcion for various medical things for my recently infected toe and Elder Aparicio's bad knee that had to get MRI'd. So I'm going to have to cut it here, but I promise to write more next week. Know that I love you all and always think about you (in a not trunky way). I pray you have a fantastic week and that everyday we all become a little bit better through the Gospel of Christ.

Much Love,
Elder Ross Carl Wilcox, Esq.

With my Ashley tie!
With the sticks that glowed
 With the Elders of Lota: (Bajo, Medio, y Alto) after a quick rehearsal for the Branch talent show.
 With my other Ashley tie!
With Elder Aparicio as members of the "Guatón Boys"
 With the rest of the crew
At the show
 My cool new toe infection!
 My wife, son, and Elder Ancco, the trio that got left in Lagunillas
My housemates

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Lord Qualifies Whom He Calls

Hey everbody out there! It is a joy to be able to write you once again.

Well, first things first. I'll guess I'll get the news out there:

On Friday during lunch, I received a call from President Martinez. He informed me that there would be an emergency cambio taking place today (Tuesday). Elder Tanner, one of the asistents, had finished his extension, and someone needed to take his place, so due to all the movement, they needed me to move to Lota to be the new companion of Elder Aparicio (one of the Zone Leaders of Coronel). He asked me if I knew what that meant, and still taken aback by the surprising news, I said I did not, so President Martinez told me the obvious. "It means, Elder Wilcox, that you will be the new Zone Leader together with Elder Aparicio." After I hung up, I took a little moment to collect myself, because I honestly don't know if I've ever felt so excited and scared (name that musical) during the mission, then reunited with my companions to give them the news.

So we kept working, Elder Perez and I, until Sunday when they informed me that I in fact had to be in Lota by Monday. So I dropped everything, got my bags packed, headed out the next morning, and here I am, writing you from my new home, about 45 minutes south of Lagunillas. It's all happened/happening very fast, and I still feel kind of in dream land. Yesterday in our District Zone meeting I gave me first lesson with Elder Aparicio in front of the Zone, and felt so unprepared and unable. You all know, I'm generally the kind of person that doesn't mind being on stage, thrives under big responsablities and loves being a leader, but for some reason, this time, for the first time in my life, I truly feel scared about this new assignment and what faces me. I think it's because this is the first time I've ever had a responsibility of such great importance. School clubs, musicals, various acivities really don't carry the same weight as helping 18 missionaries and representatives of Jesus Christ find, teach, and baptise living souls, children of the living God. So I think it's the first time that I truly am not prepared for an assignment and cannot do it on my own. So I've been praying lot, seeking guidance from Heavely Father and praying for strength to be able to learn and be an instrument in His hands. This work is truly beyond a 20 year old kid, but I know that my God can do all things, and if I have faith, I will not fear. When God called Moses to be a leader, Moses expressed his doubt and concern that he wouldn't be capable, saying he wasn't a good speaker, so God chastised him and said something like (I don't have time to look up the reference), "Am I not God? Didn't I make your mouth? And can I not put words in your mouth and be your guide?" I love that scripture. And I know that in this new assignment, God will do the same for me. He doesn't always call the qualified, but he always qualifies the called.

So I'm excited for what's ahead. This will be a great learning experience for me, and I hope to be a great help in lifting up the zone of Coronel. I'm afraid I don't have much time to write. I'll hit the highlights.

Daniela got baptised!! It was a beautiful baptismal service and she is very happy with the new step she took. She unfortunately wasn't able to be confirmed this Sunday, since she got sick and couldn't come to Church, so Elder Perez together with the other Elders of Lagunillas will be working with her and keeping her on track to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost this Sunday.
I got your package and it is AWESOME! Seriously, I loved it, the pictures, the food, the TIES that are GORGEOUS! And of course, P90X woo! Truly, thank you very much, and way excited for it all.
Good ahead and add all Chilean peoples on facebook! They added me cause I told them to, so no worries. Just keep on adding em, they already know that I can't use facebook.
Congrats Ashley and the fantastic decision!!! Seriously, I'm way excited for you and I know that the Lord will bless you richly for participating in such a marvelous work and a wonder.

Okay, times up. I'll let you all know how things are going with my new life in Lota. In the mean time, I'll leave you with a fun fact. Lota was the first city in South America to receive electric lighting, and Thomas Edison himself was the one who set it up. Neat!
I love you all very much, and love hearing from you every week. To all those who read these letters, may God bless you, and may you talk to some missionaries and learn more about the beatiful message we get to share! I know Christ lives, and that he stands at the head of His Church today. I know I'm in the right place at the right time, and couldn't feel more blessed, humbled, happy. Have a wonderul week!

Elder Wilcox
Daniela's Baptism!!!!
 with Elder Ahart and Daniela's cousin
Our stove gets way way hot, so we named it Mordor. Seriously, you could destroy the one ring in that thing.
 With Daniela and her cousins.
 With Elder Perez
Kids these days with their technology and us missionaries with nothing but our cellphones and scriptures.
Elder Perez with his apron getting ready to cook up some pancakes (farewell pancake party with Daniela and some members during my last in Little Lagunillas.)
 This picture is for all those who don't think I give a flip.
 It's happy to see us.

We literally made about 60 pancakes. It was crazy.
With Brother Gavilán. I'm definitely gonna miss that man.
These fotos are from the last district zone meeting they did in Lota. I wasn't present because I was sick, but I felt like sending them anyway so you can see some pretty scenery from my new sector.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

After many tribulations come the blessings

But what they don't tell you is that after a lot of blessings, come the tribulations. Funny how life is a big wave, full of highs and lows. We had a fantastic weekend, and had 7 investigadores attend Church with us, our personal record so far in Lagunillas, so that's pretty awesome. Truly, the Lord has blessed us with a lot of success the past week. However, opposition in all things. I'm writing you all today instead of yesterday, because I spent all day yesterday sick in bed. I woke up yesterday morning with a 102.2 degree fever, a crazy sore throat, and an upset stomach. So late last night, the marvelous, wonderful, brother Gavilán that lives in front of us took me to urgent care. Turns out, I have purulent tonsilitis. So they shot me up with two injections which at least helped me sleep through the night. I'm still house-ridden, with the same awful sore throat, but the fever's a bit better, so that's good. With the medicine that Brother Gavilán went to go pick up for me today (seriously, that man is a saint), I should be feeling better within 1 or 2 days more. I'm glad and thankful that I have so many people here to help me and a companion who is very patient, but I am prettty bummed that we're going to miss a lot of oportunities to work this week. And this a pretty important week too, with a baptism tomorrow, and lots of progressing investigadores that need to be visited. But whatever happens, I know everything will turn out okay. The Lord won't sacrifice this tremendously important work for a silly little infection, so in the mean time, I'm putting my trust in him and, as said by Victor Naborsky in the Terminal, "I wait."

I'm super excited to hear about Goin' to Zion, for some reason I found myself crying while reading about all the preparation and the involvement by the missionaries. What a remarkable evening it's going to be! I hope to see lots of photos después!

I'm sorry to hear about the situation, Dad. I know how you feel, when I'm sick I have like zero motivation to do anything, just wanna rest. I hope one day I'll overcome that though, and be able to work till the very last day, and then some. (Awesome video that I highly recommend that talks about why we have trials and what we should do in the middle of them, and after them) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6FKiNVbw3Y. It's about 10 minutes but totally worth it.

Tomorrow Daniela will be baptized. We're super excited, and I'm praying a ton that I'll be able to feel better enought at least to attend and be there for support. Wish her luck!

Very cool to hear about the two conversion stories back at home. I love hearing about them now more than ever, being a missionary and having seen the process. I feel like I wasn't sufficiently clued-in before the mission in terms of new members and being a support to them and everything. But I've made a promise to myself that after the mission, I will always do everything possible to help new converts feel welcome and loved. Happy to hear that these two young people have are involved in support systems as well, like attending BYU and being part of the show, as that age between 18-25 is the age when people most commonly go inactive. Keep em animated! (That doesn't really sound good in English, oh well)

Heather, AWESOME to hear about the move plans. Pretty cool that everybody comes back to Georgia after their time away. Georiga's always on the mind, I suppose, and beckons us. Good luck with all the complications that can be presented during your arduous journey, may you all arrive safely home :)

Ashley, if I can give you  my personal opinion (take it or leave it), I say go for it! Prepare youself and just do it. Everything else will wait. It will be a lot harder to make the decision to go more years down the road, and it would be sad to for you to think your whole life what it would have been like if you had served a mission. I promise that if you put yourself in the hands of the Lord, that he will take care of all the rest. You'll always have opportunities to study and other things afterwards. Serving a mission is the best thing you will ever do. Period. But again, that's just my opinion. You should council with the Lord and with your Church leaders. The apostoles and prophets teach us to take a decision, and then confirm it with the Lord. If you do this, you will know what is right. I admire you very much, Ashley, for your desire to serve. Sé de buen ánimo, and go forward with faith. Sometimes taking big decisions in life is like choosing between different types of cookies. They're all good! They're cookies! So just choose one and everything will work out. Love you, sis.

-Elder Wilcox
Awake and excited waiting for lunch one day
 Falling asleep waiting (that couch was delightful)
 Shout out to all mis seres queridos out there
With the Concha family, they're a wonderful family that's been inactive for about five years and we're trying to help them come back. In the last lesson we talked a bunch with Brother Concha about his experiences as a missionary and as we helped him to remember what he used to feel in the church he began to cry (first time I've seen him show much emotion. He's usually poker-face in the lessons) and told us about how he suffers everyday being away from the church. Upon telling this to a few members that know the family, they told us that that's never happened with them, and that they're usually ni ahí (completely disinteresed) with the missionaries and members that visit them. So I think we made some real progress. They're such a great family and I feel an unusual connection with them, so I'm hoping that perhaps we're their destined misionaries that are going to be able to help them come back into the fold
Pichangas!!!! Our first pichangas (the lady in the store just around the corner from us started selling the other day, so we jumped on the opportunity and were her first customers) Pichangas (also called Chorillana) are a classic chilean junk food, similar to the Canadian Poutine, that consists of french fries, lots of meat, onions, eggs, olives, cheese, avocado, and basically whatever else you wanna throw on there. There's lots of types of pichangas, but french fries and meat is always the constant.
Me and our brand new wood-burning stove. I'm so happy and toasty!
 Me with the pichangas
 Getting pumped about the stove.
 Elder Wilcox with tonsillitis (day 2 of house arrest.)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Week 9 in Lagunillas

Hey hey hey!
Thanks so much, mother dearest, for the package. I'm very excited. In response to Dad's concern, we are in fact high tech, and have little portable DVD players from the mission for the purpose of viewing Church material and missionary training videos, etc. Generation X!
Thank you, Mom, for the inspiring words and the great stories. It was actually good timing because just today I had a similar experience. Unfortunately I've still got a lot of learning to do in terms of following the impressions I receive. Today is P-Day and my companion and another Elder (Elder Ancco) in our house had to go to Concepcion today to fill out the paperwork for their visas. I didn't really have any need to go at all, and neither did Elder Ancco's companion, so I decided to stay her and letter Elder Perez and Elder Ancco go together. And all the while while I considered the option of going or not going to Concepcion, I had the strangest feeling that I should go, like it would just be the right thing to do. But I had no clue why. I had absolutely zero business in Conce. So against my better judgment, I stayed. Well a few hours into the day, while my companion was in Concepcion, I got a call from one of the Elders from my district, for whom I did a baptismal interview the other week. When we did the interview, he didn't bring the baptismal record for me to sign, so he called me to let me know that the office was waiting for me to be able to sign the record. Then I realized why I had felt that impression, even though last night I had no clue that I would need to sign it. Granted it's not a big deal. I can sign it within the next week, but it is an unfortunate complication and a breach in Church protocol, as technically nobody should be baptised without the form completely filled out and cleared. Not the end of the world, but could have been avoided if I had followed the simple, yet persistent impressions of the Spirit.
I am happy to know, however, that I am able to recognize it as such, so that the next time I'll be more prepared to follow those promptings. It's funny how the will of God is often times the opposite of what we want for ourselves. I distinctly remember one occasion years back when I was torn between either going to the movie theater with the parents or going to hang out with a certain group of friends. I had the exact same odd feeling like I should go to the theaters, but didn't know why and chose to ignore that impression. Luckily, nothing terrible ended up happening, but I did end up finding myself in a less-than-spiritual environment and spent the night feeling uncomfortable and wishing I had gone to the theaters.
The scriptures make a lot of references to this type of inner conflict between the natural man and the spirit that is within us. We, as children of our Heavenly Father, are divinely begotten, destined for greatness and exaltation, but as children of men, are "prone to wander and leave the God we love." Nephi, in particular, said something I liked, as I read his words this week. 2 Ne 2 reads:
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. 
28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;
29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
I really like 29, as it clarifies that the will of our flesh is indeed not the will of God. And if we are to progress in this world and receive salvation, we must learn to exercise our God-given agency and choose eternal life and keep the commandments, something that is very often not at all what we want. We like to sin, we like to choose death. We like to cut ourselves off from the presence of God. So, the solution? How can we make our will more in harmony with God's will? How can we reconciliate ourselves with God? Mosiah helps us out.
3:19 says
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.}
When we apply the atonement of Jesus Christ to our lives, we can become again like a child, filled with the Christ-like attributes necesary in order to truly repent, and put off the natural man. But we cannot do it alone. We can only do it with Christ, through His mercy and grace. David A. Bednar explains that Grace is the enabling power of the atonement that allows us to be better and serve beyond our own ability and desire. Ability and desire. What does that mean? That through Christ, even that inner voice that tells us that sinning is good and death desirable can be quieted. This is a process that takes place throughout a lifetime, a process called Santification, that truly few people accomplish. 
There's one example in Alma that stands out. 13:11,13 and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;
12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.
These people really applied the Atonement in their lives. They put off the natural man and became saints. This is my goal. This is my desire, to be no more burdened by sin and weakness, but to be lifted up continually by Christ, and enter into His rest. Maybe it won't happen in two years, or in 20, but I know that Heavenly Father has given us all of the tools necesary to gain salvation, and Jesus Christ has already paid the fee.
I'm not sure why I talked about all this, it's just something that's been on my mind a lot recently. The meaning of sanctification. I guess realizing that the Spirit is constantly working with me, and trying to help me walk the right path, and the story Mom shared with me made me think about all the ways my Father shows His love for me, and what I should do to return it.
Speaking of becoming purified and changing, Daniela is doing very well. After the baptism that she attended the other week, she suddenly disappeared for an entire week. We called her and called her and she never answered. We stopped by her house and was never there. Finally, after a week of desperation and going to church on Sunday feeling a little hopeless, who should walk in to Sacrament Meeting but Daniela. Turns out she went away for a week to think for awhile. She wanted to be absolutely sure that this is the right decision for her. Before, she never liked religion and hardly believed in God, so with all the changes in her life, she was a little afraid. But she told us after the church meetings that for some reason, the things that used to bring her pleasure before now just leave her feeling empty. We never even asked her to stop drinking, but she did, because it seemed right to her, as well as other changes in her life. That is the power of the Atonement at work, when her very desires and nature have changed. Her life is now in greater harmony with the Savior's teachings and she has found an inner peace that before she never had. We're still working towards a baptismal date with her on the 11th, so please keep her in your prayers so she can arrive at that day ready and without fear.
Well, I must be off. Miracles exist. The Gospel is true and Jesus is our Lord. Have a great week!
-Elder Wilcox
P.S. Dad, it breaks my heart to hear the news about your injury. Hang in there and have faith, and I will be praying for a swift and painless recovery. You are always an example to me. I love you.